Rocking the Cradle – When Women Work What happens to kids when mothers go to work. It is tough on them to have to be at the mercy of people who don’t really care. Not to mention what it does to their delicate psyches and mental health.

Rock-a-by baby
On the tree top,
When the wind blows
The cradle will rock.
When the bough breaks,
The cradle will fall,
And down will fall baby
Cradle and all.

I was in nursery when I learnt the above nursery rhyme. Like most kids I had a very vivid imagination, in my mind’s eye ‘the baby in a cradle, the bough breaking and the baby falling’, all I could think about was – the baby’s mother must be at work and the maid-servant did not care what happened to the poor helpless baby.

Recently, Ivanka Trump released  a self-help  bookWomen Who Work for women to negotiate the challenges of home and work.  Honestly, can Ivanka actually know the challenges most women face when they decide to or have to work, leaving their kids daycare.  From her lofty palace she can order the best child care resources to help her maintain her busy schedule.  What she writes about is only for the cream of the cream, which does not represent even 1% of the population.  The resources at her disposal are on the call chauffeurs, nannies, cooks, cleaners, maids and other specialists, money being of no constrain. So, how does the common woman negotiate having it all – career and babies.

I was lucky while I was growing up, there was the extended family of grandparents and other assortment of relatives and known neighbors.  Someone was there to keep an eye on you and your maid.  My grandmother although she was not very fond of us, took pleasure in keeping tabs on our live-in-maid while my mother was at work. Which was a good thing, because the maid had gotten into the habit of locking my brother and myself at home and going off to meet her friend working nearby.  Being kids we did not complain, but my mother got the news via you know who and the maid was sent packing.

I have been a working mom not by choice really, I was forced to return to work post the death of my son’s father. Thus, my 3-year-old son began his baby-sitter trail – carers who had no real interest in him except for the money he brought.  The first baby sitter was all right but did not like kids getting dirty, from having the freedom to play as he wished, he had to be careful he did not dirty himself or else he would have it, this blunted his sense of exploration.  On to baby sitter no.2   who was loving but had a daughter a little older who would get jealous when her mother paid attention to my son. The girl would retaliate by kicking him when no one was looking.

Watching this video reminds me of the time I had to leave behind my weepy son and go to work. How I wanted to stay back and take care of him.

Another sitter promised she would get my son ready for school and give him food on time. Her adult son would shout and smack my 6-year-old son  when he struggled to get himself ready for school, not bothering  help.  My son kept quite like most kids do, thinking he was the bad one. After nearly 6 months of coping he finally shared his anxiety of going there. He even said that they would threaten a 2-year child in their care by putting her in the washing machine. Can a 2-year old express what is happening to her? On to the next baby-sitter who would make him run errands like going to the shop to buy things and have him keep watch on her 4-year-old daughter when they went to play. He was supposed to be responsible for her safety.

Frustrated, I began exploring for better options and searched for jobs which were child friendly. Thankfully I found a job in a residential school. My son studied, while I worked in the same place, plus we lived on the campus so no more baby-sitters. I was available anytime; it was the perfect work-life balance. Having me close at hand helped him become an easy going and confident person.  I am grateful for a job that allowed me to be in close proximity but also gave him the freedom to explore.

Gordon Neufeld in his book Hold On to Your Kids has this advice for parents:
“The key to activating maturation is to take care of the attachment needs of the child. To foster independence we must first invite dependence; to promote individuation we must provide a sense of belonging and unity; to help the child separate we must assume the responsibility for keeping the child close. We help a child let go by providing more contact and connection than he himself is seeking. When he asks for a hug, we give him a warmer one than he is giving us. We liberate children not by making them work for our love but by letting them rest in it. We help a child face the separation involved in going to sleep or going to school by satisfying his need for closeness.”

 

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